Sterling Commerce, a subsidiary of AT&T, said Feb. 4 that it is expanding its business-to-consumer strategy by integrating its multichannel selling and fulfillment solutions and adding new marketing and merchandising capabilities to them.
"We want to expand B2C as a role within cross-channel," said Jim Beninger, Sterling Commerce's global retail industry marketing leader. "Within the Web, it's only part of the multichannel interaction. We want to enable our customers to truly integrate all channels with B2C."
Beninger said Sterling's new B2C strategy will enable retailers to manage, create and share customer information across channels, regardless of how a customer buys their products.
"New marketing and merchandising capabilities leverage all B2C information available on the Web and from every channel and integrate it through the Web," he said. "This allows more personalized and targeted shopping through every channel the retailer has. They will get the power to look at the customer cross-channel and perform upselling and targeted offers."
Beninger said that integrated multichannel selling and fulfillment is ideal for any B2C process that is complex, such as integrating B2C interactions with a customer delivery schedule, or involves multiple cross-channel customer touchpoints, such as a gift registry.
"Anything B2C will impact all other channels," he said. "This gives the customer a unified brand experience so they'll keep coming back. They can rely on the same information regardless of what touchpoint they use."
Beninger also said Sterling's integrated B2C strategy will enable retailers to implement a complete, closed-loop offering with the ability to offer stocked, non-stocked, special-order and custom products and services through all channels while managing their distributed fulfillment.
"Order management across all channels will be integrated seamlessly," he said.
Ken Morris, president of consulting firm LakeWest Group, said Sterling Commerce's B2C strategy fills a gap in the retail IT marketplace.
"Customers expect access to products anytime and anywhere and they expect them to be in stock," Morris said. "If products are not in stock, the retailer needs to be able to quickly and easily figure out an alternative or the customer will move on to the competition. At one of our clients, 25 percent of their sales are for products not in stock at that location."
Morris said customers no longer view a retailer as simply a store, but as a whole cross-channel shopping experience.
"Customers are comfortable going from one channel to another and they expect retailers to be able to do the same," he said. "Retailers are trying to integrate policies and procedures across channels, including returns, personalized promotions, and special orders, to meet the customers' needs."
Morris said that "endless aisle" capability represents the future in some retail verticals.
"One of our clients uses this concept in a what's-in-my-locker concept," he said. "Our client does not have to carry the full vendor line of products, but maybe 5 or 10 percent of the line in any channel, including brick-and-mortar, but ships directly to the client from the vendor so it is transparent to the customer."
Dan Berthiaume covers the retail industry for eWEEK. For more stories, check out eWEEK's Retail site.